A few weeks ago, my friend Matt asked me what had happened to the hole in the Ferpècle glacier. I told him that it had collapsed last year, but I hadn’t been up there recently to see what the latest was. So off I went on Wednesday to provide this report…
Although my photo from last year is not really comparable, as it was taken from above, near the Bricola hut, it is clear the collapsed ‘end’ of the glacier no longer exists and the whole glacier must have receded somewhere between 20 and 50 metres. (It’s hard to gauge when you are standing maybe 500 metres away). Perhaps a better comparison can be made with these two photos though they were taken 2 years ago.
I also came across what must be one of the smallest species of frog in the world. The little creature in picture 14 was no bigger than my little finger nail. How they survive through the winter, when this whole area is covered in snow and ice for several months, is a complete mystery to me.
I mentioned in my previous post that I’d put my name forward to help out during the Grand Raid, which runs both from and through our village. However, the organisers never got back to me on where they’d like me to be, so I presumed they had enough volunteers and I decided to do my own thing…
An ex-colleague and good friend of mine, Kevin, had successfully completed the ‘short course’ three years ago and he’d recently been in touch to say that this year he was doing the full distance, from Verbier. I thought he and the event deserved my support, so at 7:15am yesterday morning, I duly set off along 2 different sections of the route, taking pictures as a I went. Now, sporting events have never really been my forte when it comes to capturing the action, but I hope the pictures below convey both the beauty of the scenery as well as the agony and the ecstasy of some competitors.
While I was waiting for Kevin at La Vieille, I also bumped into another ex-colleague and friend, Jan, who was doing the 3/4 route from Nendaz. He, I’m sure, will have revelled in the challenge and pain of the ascent over the Pas de Lona. Kevin, however, missed the cut off time by just 2 minutes and wasn’t allowed to continue. Unfortunately he broke his derailleur during the descent into Evolène and had to wait 15 minutes while it was being repaired.
If there are any mountain bikers out there reading this, then I can only say that you will not find many more demanding or rewarding events than the Grand Raid. Apart from a variety of distances, (choose your own personal challenge), they now even allow for Electric bike competitors on the two shorter routes. Though I certainly wouldn’t want to push, carry or simply lug one of those heavy things over the Pas de Lona!
I am very fortunate to be able to do quite a number of walks, some quite challenging, from my front door. One of those is to the Pas de Lona at 2,787m or 9,144ft. It starts easy enough, along a track and then takes a path up to Volovron, before turning up through the woods to the alpage across to La Vieille. It’s still a good walk to get there (and back of course). But the real challenge starts when you set off to climb up to the col, where the path just seems to get steeper and steeper and your legs start to burn. Once there you can go even higher to the Cabane Becs de Bosson (which many do, to rest for the night, as part of the Tour of the Val d’Hérens) but, since I’d set off quite late and we had some visitors coming, I simply headed back home again.
Now, just imagine how the cyclists must feel having to do that climb pushing or carrying their bikes as part of the Grand Raid, which takes place on Saturday… There are 4 distances to choose from, either starting in Verbier, Nendaz, Hérémence or my village of Evolène, but they all have to do that climb before descending (and climbing again briefly) to the finish in Grimentz. I’ve put my name down to support the riders by handing out drinks and/or maybe giving directions, but I’m not sure where I’ll be stationed yet. It could be in the village or on the mountain side somewhere, but wherever it is, I hope to bring you some pictures next week. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this walk…
From Tideswell Colin and I followed the official route east to Eyam and then north across Eyam Moor. However, as we approached Stoke Ford we veered off east to Hathersage, instead of west to Castleton, to complete our circuit. It was possibly the shortest of the 4 days at around 11 miles or 17.5 km.
Throughout the 4 days we had been in just shorts and tee shirts all day, but the fine weather finally broke as we approached the penultimate pub. So there was only one thing to do – take shelter and wait for the shower to pass by… 😊 Cheers! 🍻
By contrast to all the ‘Edges’ of Day 1 and the many villages visited during Day 2, Day 3 included two very tranquil and secluded riverside walks – one along Lathkill Dale and the other by the side of the River Wye up Monsal/Millar’s Dale. Despite it being the longest day at 16 miles or 25.5 km, the less hilly terrain gave us plenty of time to have 2 very pleasant refreshment stops. The first was at the Cock and Pullet, in Sheldon and the second at the Monsal Head Hotel. From there it was a very easy stroll (or should that be stagger? 🤔) to our finish in Tideswell.
Just in case you are wondering about the last picture… (“Not another beer?” or maybe “That’s a different tee shirt!” I hear you say…) It was taken by Colin at the end of Day 2 and I should have posted it yesterday, but I forgot. I thought it deserved an airing as it captures the true spirit of the walk. 🙂
With another fine day forecast, Colin and I left Pilsley, heading south east and along the road, back onto the official Inn Way at Chatsworth House. The route then followed the course of the River Derwent south, through the very peaceful villages of Beeley and Rowsley before turning south west through Stanton in Peak to Birchover. From there we turned north west across Harthill Moor to Youlgrave.
Around early afternoon, we considered going slightly off the route and downhill to the pub in Stanton, but decided to press on to stop at one (or maybe both 😉) of the two pubs in Birchover, only to find that both of them were closed! (Mondays in the Peak District must be very quiet normally). So, like the day before, but for a different reason, it was a very ‘dry’ day.
Regular readers with good memories may recall that last year my mate Colin and I did 4 days of the Inn Way to the Yorkshire Dales. Well, we had so much fun (how could you not, with all that fresh air and real ale available 😊) that we decided to tackle another of the five routes in the Inn Way Series – this time, the Peak District. As before we only did 4 days of a possible 6, by cutting across back to Hathersage instead of continuing on to Castleton. (See overview route map below).
We had trouble finding accommodation in Baslow, so our first day would take us, slightly off route, to a wonderful B&B, with a HUGE cooked breakfast, called Holly Cottage, in Pilsley.
Our aim was to start at 11am but, thanks to not one, but two, cancelled Northern trains from Sheffield, Colin’s arrival in Hathersage was delayed by an hour an a half and we set off at 1pm. This meant a cracking pace had to be set in order to reach our destination 14.5 miles or 23km later. The route took us over the top of Stanage Edge, then south along White Edge, Froggat Edge and finally Curbar Edge, before dropping down through Baslow to Pilsley.
The main reason we travelled over to Spain was to see Arthur and his exhibition at his gallery along the Camino de Santiago. Arthur had walked the Camino several years ago and fell in love with what was then a dilapidated building right on the path about 130km (112 miles) from Santiago de Compostela. He decided to buy it and set about renovating it and now, 10 years on, it’s both his home and an art gallery. The garden is still work in progress but the flowers he has planted, which includes 20 to 30 lavender plants, are already attracting numerous butterflies.
Any pilgrims passing by (who will need to turn right to San Xil at the split in the route in Triacastela) are welcome to enter and marvel at the work he’s done as well as his obvious artistic talent. They may even be lucky enough to get their Camino ‘credentials’, or log book, ‘stamped’ with an Arthur Manton-Lowe original.
I guess this is a timely moment to add that I’m currently putting together a website for Arthur (using WordPress of course) to showcase his paintings, called www.artworkbyart.com. It’s also work in progress and we will be adding some more pictures soon, so please feel free to follow that site and if anyone out there is interested in purchasing or knowing anything more about the paintings that you see, please do get in touch. 🙂
Some months ago now, Judith and I were invited by our good friend, Arthur Manton-Lowe, to an art exhibition which he was holding at his gallery on the Camino de Santiago, near Triacastela. I shall post some pictures of that area tomorrow, but on the way there, we stopped off to explore some of the western coast of Spain. It’s an area that we had never been before and it was noticeable that there were very few English speaking visitors.
We stayed in an area of Poio, called O Covelo, and drove out to find some wonderful beaches near San Vicente do Grove. The following day we took a boat ride from Portonovo to the Illa de Ons, which is one of a number of National parks along that coast.
We learnt that the weather in that area had been very wet (possibly the worst since records began) but we were fortunate to have some fabulously sunny days.